The Department of Energy began its official existence in 1977 and oversees 17 national laboratories under six different umbrellas. Their 14,000 employees are responsible for everything from reducing nuclear proliferation to overseeing the nation’s energy supply.
Six Facts About the Department of Energy
Energy impacts nearly every moment of our lives, but this department is often overlooked. Here are some interesting facts about the Department of Energy.
1. They host some really cool competitions
The Department of Energy hosts the Annual Solar Decathlon, a collegiate level competition for clean energy. The competition exists to bring new employees and innovation into the green energy space, training students in both designing and building houses in their communities. Over forty countries and 709 teams have participated in the event. They also host the National Science Bowl, encouraging students in middle and high school to learn math and science and eventually pursue careers in those fields.
2. They have different security clearances
While having their own personnel security program isn’t too far away from normal, the DOE also has their own terms for security clearances. Instead of Top Secret and Secret, the DOE has Q and L level clearances. Their clearance policies are also governed by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Part of the reason for the separate security clearance process is because of the sensitivity of the information the DOE deals with on the regular, including access to information about nuclear weapons.
3. They manage the nation’s nuclear weapons
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is an agency within the DOE responsible for maintaining and enhancing the safety of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. They also work to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction and respond to nuclear and radiological emergencies around the globe.
4. They support research
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the largest supporter of research in the physical sciences. They support over 25,000 researchers and provide 39% of federal funding in the physical sciences.
5. They built the largest laser in the world
Along with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the DOE built this laser in 2009. This laser, called the National Ignition Facility, fills a ten story building and has 192 separate laser beams. They can direct all their energy into a one-centimeter target and reach temperatures of up to 180 million degrees!
6. Cyber security is a big deal
Part of protecting America’s energy systems means defending against not just physical threats, but against cybersecurity threats. A foreign adversary with ill intent could affect all of us by impacting our electrical grid. The DOE recently announced a $12 million investment in cybersecurity and infrastructure to strengthen the existing infrastructure, and it’s part of their ongoing commitment to protect our nation’s energy resources.
The DOE is tasked with protecting physical and cyber infrastructure, maintaining nuclear weapons, and innovating ideas for a greener future. They keep our nation’s energy resources secure and ensure that we have access to the energy we need for every aspect of our daily lives.